Horace Mann is a name not unknown to public school educators. He was the first officer ever appointed to a public school board more than 175 years ago and an historian once wrote of him—
No one did more to establish in the minds of the American people the conception that education should be universal, non-sectarian, free, and that its aims should be social efficiency, civic virtue, and character, rather than mere learning or the advancement of education ends.
The connection between classroom and community is quite a legacy and one that is as meaningful and powerful today as it has been throughout human history.
Locally, this is the week of our Golden Apple celebrations and nationally, it is a week devoted to the recognition of teachers in every one of the more than 13,500 school divisions across America.
It has been a lifetime habit of mine when talking with people I’ve met from all walks of life to ask them the same question—who was your favorite teacher? It is one question that always gets answered and I always enjoy and learn from the stories that follow. The teachers are different; from all disciplines and from grade levels but they share in common the spark they ignited within the story-teller. Time may have blurred the recollections of many childhood experiences but everyone always remembers the teacher who changed their life.
I may be biased but I know Albemarle County Public Schools has more life-changers in the classroom per capita than any other school division in the country. Our teachers long have been champions of holistic education, transferring knowledge and skill development and also building among students a strong sense of respect and decency in how we treat one another; an unshakeable bond of friendship and support for all others and a desire to work together for a common purpose.
Long before concepts such as student-centered learning and maker-infused curriculum entered our lexicon, teachers were practicing these principles and giving students stories to tell for the rest of their lives.
Our one strategic goal commits us to prepare students for lifelong success as learners, workers and…..citizens. The learning and working part of this has obvious import to quality of life but the citizen part, the values part, is deeper. Our administrators and our classified staff, and most of all, our teachers, are very good at understanding this.
Going back to Horace Mann, he was advocating for universal, non-sectarian and free public education at a time when our nation looked and was very different from what it is today. Yet, almost two centuries later, we remain the most successful, prosperous, compassionate and generous nation on earth.